After scarfing down a delicious lunch that Katherine threw together (I really could have been more helpful, I suppose), I headed off the few miles to their house. I arrived, got introduced to the Mrs...who pleasantly surprised me by doing something rather more characteristically Southern--she gave me a hug! As the afternoon wore on, I discovered that she is a rather enthusiastic soul who really enjoys raising bees and sharing what she knows about them.
I rode along with them in the back seat of their pick-up; veiling up at each stop since I didn't want to seem too much of the dare-devil by going veil-less, even though I really was having trouble observing as closely as I would have liked.
We stopped at five different locations. The first hive I mainly just stood back and peered over Mr. S's arm when he was showing me the brood comb--larva and eggs! Now I know what the eggs look like--only I wonder if I will be capable of seeing them in my cells as they do not have that black plastic backing (I forget the exact name for it). They told me that that hive had essentially gone gang-busters last year and the opted against splitting it--and the colony basically died out over the winter; so that hive was, in a way, just getting back on it's feet. Maybe that was the hive that they had put a package of Florida bees in...I think it was.
The second location, the homeowner (the local middle school principal!) suited up and peered over Mr. S's arm as I actually touched this hive. It had swarmed a couple weeks ago and they were primarily looking to see if one of the new queens raised up by the bees had started laying. For all we could see, not yet.
The third location had three hives total--one of which was located deeper on the property than the first two. I helped Mrs. S in the first two hives while Mr. S drilled round 1"-2" holes in the top of the inner covers (I'll come back to that in a bit). Propolis is really very sticky (bee glue, anyone?)... Anyway, I got to use my hive tool (I brought my own along, which they approved of) and pull a few frames. Both those hives were doing nicely. The second of the first two held bees from Georgia (like mine!) and were probably the most gentle of all the hives we got into. [None of us got stung and apparently even the more ornery ones behaved nicely today.]
The third hive at that location, set more in the shade, holds what are, they told me, their most vicious bees. I am grateful that they behaved themselves, but I did stand ready, if necessary (whether or not it looked like it as I was attempting to peer into the hive) to start my quick trek to the truck!
The fourth location was right there on Jo's property (Jo is a lady I know from the Farmer's Market)--I didn't know that at first, but I figured it out and asked by the time we were done there. Once again, I got to help a little and those bees, also more normally irritable, were gentle. I think they had requeened that one...or the bees had requeened themselves. Other than that it was the third hive at the previous location. I forget.
The fifth location (after a brief bathroom stop at their house and a new battery for Mr. S's drill), had two hives on it. The first of those was rather weak and they decided to put a feeder on it.
The second one--oh...my...goodness. BEES. This one was exploding. I was told that they have already split this hive once this year and have already taken one or two honey supers off it--and there are two more ready to come off.
Anyway, as we are poking through the hive, looking at the brood...brood...brood...Mr. S asks me if I think I could a afford a second queen. Well...because if so...he wanted to give me a couple frames of brood!!
I hemmed a little, I guess partly because I didn't want to seem greedy--but FREE BEES!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! ("Sounds like an agreeable proposition...")
Obviously not, because I now have another nuc sitting in the side yard with two frames of capped brood and a frame of capped honey in it. The nuc hive box I will return when I move them out, but until then, it's on loan. (I need to do some shopping around and find the best pricing on more hive bodies, supers, frame, etc.)
Gee...I tell you what, I want to be those kind of people. So gracious and giving. "Here kid, have some more bees. We want to support you in your enthusiasm and desire to beekeep." Wow.
Anyway, things I learned today:
- Beekeepers cannot be overly uneasy about smushing bees.
- The difference between worker brood and drone brood. Drone brood looks more like popcorn.
- I kind of already knew what queen cells looked like, but I saw quite a few in the second hive. There is also something called a queen cup; I guess they keep one or two hanging around in case their queen dies so they can immediately move a larva in? I'm not sure. I reckon I should have asked a few more questions regarding that. (I was probably busy hauling my veil out of my face.)
- Once the bees cap the honey, they are done with that until they start eating it. In other words, they don't build a second layer over the top of it. For whatever reason, I thought perhaps they did.
- Different breeds of bees really do look different. I am afraid I haven't the slightest notion as to which breed(s) I now possess, but that the bees from Georgia are a smaller, lighter colored bee than the ones the S's gave me. Mrs. S was telling me about some that they got from Louisiana that were even lighter colored yet!
- Propolis will stick your gloves and hive tool together. Just so you know. That stuff is gooey.
- Mr. S was drilling holes in his inner covers in order to ventilate the hive better. I hadn't heard of that or of the propping of the telescoping cover, but it makes sense. I just wonder if he is going to buy new inner covers for winter or stick the hunks of wood he drilled out back into them? Maybe I'll ask later on.
I had a grand ol' time all in all this afternoon. I thoroughly appreciate their willingness to help me out, to show me what they know, to let me get a little hands on experience...and the little compliment that I heard drop when Mrs. S was talking to Mama when we brought the new nuc over. I guess I was a little calmer around the bees than perhaps she was expecting. :)
I only had any worry of being stung once--and that was at that last, exploding, hive. I got a bee in my glove. But she soon trotted out back into the sunshine. I do not imagine the inside of my glove would be a place a nectar eating insect would like to stay very long in. There were a few jokes about not letting the bees up one's pant legs...I get the impression it happened last time they went through hives...it sounds like the ol' fire-ant reaction.
I had a really good time and I really, really, really appreciate my new bees!!